During these aberrant times, the news is flush with stories of heroes…individuals and companies that are doing extraordinary things in light of Covid-19. Whether it be the donation of goods/services to healthcare workers and students, loans/payment plans for individuals and businesses, or volunteers that put themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of others, it is all hands on deck.
At a time when people need to come together while being apart, not all businesses can be superheroes. But long after the dust settles, consumers will remember those companies that put people before profits.
Examples abound of efforts small and large on the part of companies that have made these times a little more bearable for ordinary consumers. Some of these include companies whose products are particularly important or useful during isolation. To name a few:
- Colgate-Palmolive is donating 25 million bars of soap for global distribution and another $20 million in health and hygiene products for local communities.
- HBO is offering 500 free hours of programming available via HBO Now and HBO GO.
- SiriusXM is providing free access to its 300+ channel streaming service in North America through May 15.
- Via the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, major and minor internet providers will postpone disconnection for 60 days if consumers are unable to pay.
- Many restaurants and food delivery services such as Uber Eats and Grubhub are waiving or reducing delivery/commission fees.
- Amazon.com’s Audible launched a free collection of audio books for children.
- Allstate’s Shelter-in-Place Program is refunding more than $600 million in auto premiums for the months of April and May. American Family Mutual will act in kind.
Juxtapose the above with companies that are slow to react or that take advantage of these difficult times. Search online to find vendors charging exorbitant prices that can be 5-10X above normal. Some travel and associated insurance companies will not reimburse for those who become sick with Covid-19 or who experience unexpected travel restrictions.
In considering how and when to interact with customers during the pandemic, including whether and what kind of kind of offers to make available, keep these things in mind:
1.) If your business can afford to make a generous gesture or discount to support the greater good, it may be remembered long after Covid-19 is just a memory. Not all businesses can do this.
2.) Alternatively, there are creative things businesses can do that are a win win for both company and customer. For example, consider offering or extending free trials such as Peloton’s 90-day free workout app (not just cycling). Trial offers as well as virtual tastings / parties / information sessions are particularly worthwhile for service businesses and can result in future revenue.
3.) Think about outreach to customers via social media, email or other method that will fill a need, current or deferred. While consumers are isolated in their homes with more time on their hands, they may be very receptive to communications that inform or entertain (including original or curated content). Bored Panda, a magazine for creative people, has been featuring funny, viral Coronavirus posts as a means of promoting laughter, something everyone can use at this time.
4.) One final option is simply a heartfelt message to your community. Small businesses in particular have a pulse on what is happening in local areas. People appreciate companies that are pulling for them.
Nothing is business as usual. Deferred gratification may be the name of the game. Now is the time to let company values shine through. Consumers will appreciate and remember those businesses that helped them through these formidable times.